Review by Willard Manus
The iconoclastic choreographer Matthew Bourne returned recently to L.A.'s
Ahmanson Theatre with his latest--and quite daring-- production of SLEEPING
BEAUTY, "a gothic fairy tale." The sub-title is apt, for this
version of the Petipa/Tchaikovsky original (which premiered in St. Petersburg
in 1890) features grotesque fairies (most of them male), black skies,
and a Dracula-like villain (Caradoc, danced in sinister fashion by Adam
Princess Aurora, the sleeping beauty herself, is first introduced as an
impish baby (hilarious puppetry by Sarah Wright); later she appears as
a cheeky teenager (Hannah Vassallo), who delights in rolling around in
the dirt with Leo, the royal gamekeeper (Dominic North). Vassallo, a charismatic
and free-spirited dancer, was given free rein by Bourne, as was her ardent
Actually, all of the dancing in this imaginatively retooled version of
SLEEPING BEAUTY was fresh and inventive, a blend of traditional and original
styles that we now associate with Bourne. The seventeen-person corps,
buttressed by a swarm of extras (garden party guests, Caradoc's henchmen,
sleepwalkers, etc.), skipped lightly and deftly through various time periods,
making all the changes look easy and organic.
This production of SLEEPING BEAUTY was also noteworthy for its decor.
Lez Brotherston's set and costume design were every bit as important and
creative as Bourne's choreography and direction.
Coming up at the Ahmanson, March 4-April 13, is HARMONY, a new musical
by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. Call 213-972-4400 or visit centertheatregroup.org